When I say As it is in Heaven is a Scandinavian Sister Act, I mean no disrespect to either movie. Both films feature a wild-haired, fish-out-of-water protagonist who unwillingly becomes involved in teaching harmony to a characterful, cacophanous choir, thereby allowing both choristers and choirmaster to discover joy and music, independence and community, redemption and love. There’s even a frosty religious zealot in both movies, proving once again that there’s no hypocrite like a religious hypocrite.
The difference of course is in the telling; As it is in Heaven is a gentle, moving human drama shot in the Swedish Norrland (in and around the rural towns of Kalix, Boden, Gallivare and Lulea, apparently) as the grim and gloomy winter slowly gives way to the promise of spring. Over 185 days, the characters fill in the gaps between their given lines and define themselves both as individuals and as part of a broader, connected family. It’s a lovely film, utterly winning in its humanity, and uniformly brilliantly acted. Look out in particular for the painful rebellion of the Preacher’s wife, and for the subtle kindnesses of the damaged Lena.